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Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Who do I go to for support or with any queries regarding the SAF?

 

Programme Assurance and Appraisal team, (PA&A)

The Programme Assurance and Appraisal team will work collaboratively with the Directorates across the WMCA to ensure that all projects and funding follow the SAF and that it is applied proportionally and consistently. As experts in risk, assurance, project and performance management, they will work with Portfolios and project delivery partners to provide technical expertise, in addition to support and guidance to help navigate the new framework.

If you have any questions about the SAF implementation or the Finance & Business Hub/Programme Assurance & Appraisal Team: please contact ProgrammeAssuranceandAppraisal@wmca.org.uk

All information relating to the SAF including templates, be found below:

Single Assurance Framework

I’m not internal to the WMCA, how will I access the information I need?

When you start to work with your usual contacts at the WMCA, they will be able to explain the process to you and direct you to the appropriate templates that will be on the WMCA website Single Assurance Framework (wmca.org.uk)

How do I know what process to follow?

The SAF approvals process you take is dependent on the financial value of the total project as follows:

  • The accountable Executive Director can approve proposals up to an accumulative spend of £1m 2

  • Proposals with an accumulative spend of £1m-£5m require sign off by WMCA Statutory Officers3

  • Proposals with an accumulative spend of £5m-£20m require sign off by WMCA Investment Board

  • Proposals with an accumulative spend of over £20m require sign off by WMCA Board

I am applying for funding from a Central Government Department (e.g. DfT, DCMS, DfE) or other external body – do I need to use the SAF process?

Yes, any proposal that incurs a financial liability on WMCA will need to follow the SAF process.

The Assurance Toolkit will ensure an integrated ‘Three Lines of Defence’ model is applied to WMCA activity.

I need to deliver a project quickly because it’s a mayoral priority, or the funding stream demands a quick turnaround, how can I achieve this?

Whilst the SAF ensures appropriate and proper controls are in place and adequate assurance is undertaken for any WMCA spend, it also allows for decisions to be expedited, where appropriate. Dependent upon the nature and complexity of the proposal, the project development phase can be streamlined through the use of a Business Justification Case (making the Development phase a lot quicker). The Business Justification Case is a single Business Case that can be used for development of non-contentious schemes where there is an agreed/simple procurement route in place.

As the SAF embeds itself within WMCA, it is intended that good practice will be captured and shared. The Centre of Excellence are a source of develop valuable project management resource and guidance.

Communication of a Project Decision. When a project receives approval from an Executive Director (or Board), how is the decision cascaded?

The appraisal team send the decision to key stakeholders involved in the project; this will include the Exec Director, Delivery Lead, WMCA Finance Lead and WMCA Legal Lead to formulate the Funding Agreement (if applicable). Furthermore, a SAF Approvals Checklist is also in development which will accompany the approval decision notification. This checklist will outline any key observations and red risks raised during the approvals process (from Assurance and Appraisal to Panel/Board) that have not been resolved.

What happens to projects in delivery?

The Programme Assurance team will undertake ‘Health Checks’ of projects in delivery. Health Checks will be risk-based and planned throughout the year. Health Check key lines of enquiry are based upon HM Treasury Green Book, Association for Project Management and Infrastructure and Project Authority best practice. A report detailing any findings and recommendations will be produced by the Programme Assurance team and the focus of the process will be on helping the Project/Scheme to deliver a successful project and its objectives.

We are in the process of developing a new programme. What is the best SAF approach for project development and governance?

The SAF approach is a framework, and we will work with you as the Project/programme/scheme develops to determine a proportionate and flexible approach.

The process for applying for external funding (including bids) has recently changed – why is that and what do I have to do?

The amended External Funding Application Process has been updated to ensure that SLT are aware of and approve the application, taking into consideration its strategic fit, the annual business plan and the resources needed to deliver it. If it is an opportunity that doesn’t meet a strategic objective, this will give SLT the chance to consider.

This will also help to ensure that the CA is safe and compliant with HM Treasury guidelines, as well as sharing best practice with other projects and Directorates and potentially to exploit cross directorate working.

The updated process also involves the Enabling Services earlier in the process, giving them the opportunity to advise on any legal, procurement, financial or Single Assurance Framework approaches needed. Funding Applications can take place any time in the project development process.

What is the WMCA Activity Register, and how will it be used?

The WMCA-wide Activity Register, managed by the Centre of Excellence, will capture all WMCA project/programme/scheme information, across all Directorates/Portfolios together with key financial and project/programme/scheme information including SAF touchpoints (Assurance, Risk and Performance data).

The Activity Register will provide WMCA with oversight and data relating to SAF implementation and project performance. The Centre of Excellence will work with you to ensure the Activity Register remains accurate and a useful management tool.

The Activity register captures external funding secured to monitor those funds to ensure they are being spent in accordance to the funding agreement.

internal funding projects/bids/programmes etc.
Any other funding that has financial or reputational risk to WMCA. Project stage, i.e. Bid, Initiation, Business case development, delivery, so that Assurance and Appraisal teams can plan their level of support

What are the criteria for adding information to the Activity Register?

Projects that have been initiated or are being developed

Any fund 'bids' that are being developed to secure external funds to deliver projects

All Capital Expenditure projects - there is no minimum value for it to be included on the Activity Register.

Anything under £1m i.e. delegated authority of the Executive Director. To retain transparency, all activity including decisions, should be captured on the Activity Register. This also includes devolved funding, where WMCA is an accountable body – usually capital expenditure.

All WMCA funded projects should go through SAF, therefore, be included on the Activity Register.

Communications: When a project receives approval from an Executive Director (or Board), how is the decision cascaded?

The appraisal team send the decision to key stakeholders involved in the project; this will include the Exec Director, Delivery Lead, WMCA Finance Lead and WMCA Legal Lead to formulate the Funding Agreement (if applicable). Furthermore, a SAF Approvals Checklist is also in development which will accompany the approval decision notification. This checklist will outline any key observations and red risks raised during the approvals process (from Assurance and Appraisal to Panel/Board) that have not been resolved.

What is the Process for preparing business cases from SOC* onwards?

More complex projects will go through SOC-OBC-FBC*, but it isn’t a linear approach – work with COE to find the best approach for your project. It is an iterative process dependant on the complexity (Proportionate and Flexible)

What do DfT retained teams require as well as our internal approach?

Process yet to be confirmed, by DfT. WMCA Business Cases are HM Treasury compliant, and the TAG standard will be part of that process. WMCA provide the assurance process to review the internal risks and will share the appraisals with DfT.

What are the financial thresholds for the approvals approach? Is it WMCA budget or total budget?

The threshold is how much funding is being asked for from the CA, not the total project costs. It might be that Investment Board might want confirmation that the remaining funding is available. An appraisal is not only about the funding, it’s also the risk profile. The Appraisal will review risk and include it its report to Investment Panel/Board.

The governance structure is the approved process for how decisions will be made in WMCA. The business case submissions are made to the relevant authority level. Executive Directors less than £1m, Statutory Officers up to £5m. Investment Board £5-20m and WMCA Board £20m+.

What are the timelines for projects approvals?

Meeting dates with submission of papers are set by Governance, and programme Assurance and Appraisal can be flexible within that framework. The key dates can be found on the ‘Drumbeat’ document stored on the Single Assurance Framework intranet/internet site.

Where does the Business Costs Ratio fit in?

For any financial questions, please contact Ian Monks – Senior Major Programmes Accountant. Further guidance will be issued from the Finance team soon.

How does SAF fit in with TAG and other Benefits work?

SAF focusses on risks and mitigation for internal consumption, rather than a technical review of the business case. DfT have deemed it appropriate to manage CRSTS funding,